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The province of Quebec's farm population: changes over a lifetime

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The province of Quebec's farm population continued its steady decline in numbers, dropping by 6.2% since 2001 to 90,940.

In 1931, when the farm population count was compiled for the first time, 777,017 people were living on a farm—27.0% of Quebec's population. By 2006, the farm population accounted for only 1.2% of the province. In less than one lifetime Quebec has moved from 1 in 4 inhabitants living on a farm to 1 in 83. At the same time, Quebec's total population has grown from 2,874,662 in 1931 to 7,546,130 in 2006.

Early in the last century, farmers in the province worked on a large number of small farms. In 1931, there were 135,957 farms, with an average of 127 acres per farm. By 2006, the number had decreased to 30,675 farms, with an average of 279 acres per farm. However, the total farm area in Quebec had gone down, from 17.3 million acres in 1931 to 8.6 million acres in 2006.

Age of Quebec's farm population

The province of Quebec has an aging population, and the story is no different for the province's farm population. In 2006 those aged 65 and older made up 7.2% of the province's farm population, up from 4.8% in 1971. Those 65 and over in 2006 made up slightly more of the province's general population, at 14.3%.

Language profile of Quebec's farm population

Of the province of Quebec's entire farm population in 2006, 90.8% reported French as their mother tongue, 6.3% reported English, and the remainder (2.9%) reported a mother tongue other than English or French. Of those who reported another language, the largest group was German. The profile for the province's general population in 2006 differed, with 80.1% reporting French as their mother tongue, 8.6% reporting English, and the remaining 11.3% citing another language. Of the other languages spoken by the province's general population, the Italian language was the largest group, followed by Arabic and then Spanish.

Place of birth of Quebec's farm population

The 2006 Census of Population counted 2,680 immigrants to Canada in the province of Quebec's farm population or 2.9% of the total provincial farm population. In 1971, immigrants made up 1.2% of the province's farm population. Conversely, immigrants made up 11.5% of the province's general population in 2006, up from 7.8% in 1971.

The Swiss were a significant proportion (32.0%) of Quebec's immigrant farm population, but they made up less than 1% of immigrants in the province's general population. About 14% of the province's immigrant farm population was from France, compared to about 7% of immigrants in Quebec's general population. The third most common place of birth for Quebec's immigrant farm population was Belgium at 9.0%, compared to 1.1% in the province's general population.

Quebec's farm family finances

The total income of a census family is the sum of all incomes received during the calendar year preceding the census by all members of that family aged 15 years of age and over. Income includes wages and salaries, net farm income, net non-farm self-employment income, government transfer payments, investment income, retirement pensions and other money income.

In 2006, 9,020 farm families in the province of Quebec were involved in an incorporated farm. This is considerably less than the 21,915 Quebec farm families involved in an unincorporated farm in 2006, down 9.6% from 24,240 families in 2001.

The median total income for Quebec farm families on unincorporated farms in 2005 was $51,204, compared to $58,675 received by census families in the province's general population.

Education of Quebec farm operators

In 2006, 7.2% of Quebec farm operators had university degrees (bachelor level and above) up from 6.4% in 2001. Comparatively, approximately 20% of the province's total labour force fell into this category.

Proportionally more Quebec farm operators reported apprenticeship or trades certificates or diplomas than the labour force (22.2% compared with 18.1%). This preference may well be the result of a number of factors, including time required away from the farm, and the preference for the more practical approach of college courses on animal care and field-cropping techniques.

What Quebec's farm operators do

In the 2006 Census, about 39% of farm operators in the province of Quebec reported their main occupation as non-agricultural. This increased from 32.6% since 2001 and suggests that more operators are working off the farm. A higher proportion of female operators in the province reported a non-agricultural occupation than males (48.7% versus 35.4%).

Among the non-agricultural occupations, the top occupation for Qubec's male operators was transportation equipment operators and related workers, excluding labourers, while for women operators, secretarial occupations were predominantly reported.